Based on text by Patrick Buggy
“Where else have my instincts been this wrong?”
This thought flashed across my mind while golfing with a friend. I’m pretty bad at golf. And it showed in my performance.
I wanted to hit the ball farther, so I followed my instincts and swung the club harder!
Makes sense, right? “More effort = More progress!”
But my instincts were wrong. Putting more “OOMPH” into my swing made my performance worse.
- I was less accurate
- The ball didn’t travel farther
- And I had used more energy in the process
I didn’t know what to do about it! Fortunately, I was with an experienced golfer. On the next hole, they told me to slow down my swing.
At first, this didn’t make sense. (“Doesn’t slower mean less power?”) But I gave it a try.
To my astonishment, it worked! hit the ball farther and straighter than I had hit it all day! By slowing down, I had better form and struck the ball better.
The Paradox of Slowing Down to Go Farther
I think about that day on the golf course often. It taught me a powerful lesson: Doing more isn’t always better. If you want to make more progress, start by slowing down.
The goal of slowing down isn’t actually to go slower. It’s about taking action in the most effective way.
Optimizing for the effectiveness of your approach, is key to making the overall journey better.
In this case, “slowing down” means optimizing for:
- Quality over quantity: Doing things well instead of doing more things.
- Sustainability of effort: Doing something you can sustain, enjoy doing, and want to keep doing.
- Intentionality over reactivity: Doing what you’ve decided you want, instead of letting others dictate your path for you.
- Open consideration over attachment: Doing what’s optimal, letting go of attachments to “the way things are” or “the way we’ve always done it”.
The Navy Seals have a saying that encapsulates this premise: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.”
When you do something more slowly, you’re more intentional, and can make it smooth. Smooth means high-quality. And high-quality is effective, which means you make better progress in the long-run.
But if slowing down is so important, why don’t we do it more often? Why isn’t “mindful and slow” our default state?
Why it’s Hard to Slow Down
There is a toxic narrative present in modern society: “More is better.”
You see it in the form of rampant consumerism across the world. But the same story bleeds into other areas of life, often without realizing it.
And it contributes to a destructive thought-pattern when trying to make progress on things you care about.
“If I’m not seeing the results I’d like, then I need to do more! Hustle harder! Do it faster! Put more effort into it!”
There’s something attractive about the idea that hard work can solve all your problems. It’s simple and gives you a clear path forward. To be fair, it’s rooted in a gem of truth: action begets results.
But it’s not the whole story. How you do something matters just as much as the fact that you do it.
Part 2 coming next week!